Looking at the Light through John - Chapter 12

Celebration

The Jewish hierarchy was looking for Jesus. The crowds coming into Jerusalem early for purification rites before the Passover were wondering if He would come to the Feast. But the Lord, having hidden in the wilderness, suddenly came into the area of the Mount of Olives, arranging a propaganda strike to set the stage for His own triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover,” is the assignation of John, “came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead” (John 12:1). The stage was perfect; everyone knew that Lazarus had been raised from the dead by Jesus, and the curiosity was running high. “So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him” (John 12:2).

Conscious of His own upcoming death, the Christ was going to make sure that the celebration of Lazarus’ resurrection went on, thus setting the stage for belief in His own resurrection. And Mary would not be without her reward: “Truly I say to you,” were the words of the Savior, “wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall be spoken of in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13).

 

 

Triumphal Entry

“Let her alone!” Jesus had said to Judas. Mary had just dumped thousands of dollars worth of perfume on the Lord, and Judas — guilt-ridden over his stealing of money in the common treasury, as well as greedy and envious — had commented that the money could have been better spent by passing through his hands to the poor. When the Lord publicly rebuked the pilferer at the dinner in honor of Lazarus’ resurrection, then he made the final decision to go to the chief priests and Pharisees and let them know where and when to find Jesus for His arrest. Bearing personal responsibility for his actions, Judas was still carrying out the plan of God so that Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent resurrection would occur for the redemption of mankind.

These events would all cause people to talk, which was what Jesus also wanted to occur, so that when He rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, the multitudes would throng the passage way. “The great multitude therefore of the Jews,” is the annotation of John, “learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead” (John 12:9). The ranking Jews could not help but notice the continuing effects of Jesus’ latest miracle on the multitudes, and decided to implement another phase of their plan. “But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also,” commented the apostle, “because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus” (John 12:10,11). This is a great example of how short-sighted antagonists of the Lord become: they were planning to kill a man who they knew had already died and been raised from the dead; Jesus could do it again if He wanted to! But they were losing followers and influence very rapidly, and the panic mode they were in dictated that desperate measures be used.

The Lord Jesus is the Master Planner, and had set these events in motion before the foundation of the world. Just now, even, He is continuing to work through faithful disciples, modern Judases, and watching throngs, preparing for His final triumphal entry to planet earth. And they will shout, willingly or unwillingly, “Hosanna! to the King!”

 

 

When Jesus Was Glorified

God is the perfect communicator, and the scriptures are the perfect communication. The goal of God, through this perfect communication, is to establish spiritual fellowship with unspiritual man. Man, therefore, has to be upgraded considerably before this fellowship can really occur. Those in the image of Adam, according to the word of God, “are earthy,” and have to be brought to the level of “heavenly” (I Corinthians 15:47-49).

This spiritual upgrading only occurs through Jesus. Indeed, those who are “in the flesh” are hostile to God, whereas those who are “in Christ Jesus” can now walk as children of light. “Grace and truth,” noted the apostle John in the opening of his gospel account, “were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). But this spiritual upgrading can only occur if the individual is willing to participate in all that God has revealed in His written word concerning His Son.

Even as the Holy Spirit recorded the events of Jesus’ earthly sojourn, He inserted the words to spike the reader’s attention and keep him focused on the Jesus who is in glory. While those who want to manipulate people by playing on their emotions in making the cross the center of gravity, the great God moves those who have ears to hear on to the heights of the unseen realm. The perfect Communicator thus engages in perfect communication.

 

 

Preparation of the Jews

Jesus’ three and one-half years of earthly ministry were intense. There were no wasted moves, and everything was in accordance with a heavenly scripted plan. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was one of those carefully planned photo-ops, wherein the Lord assured Himself of maximum attention at the precise time multitudes were beginning to crowd into Jerusalem for the Passover. When the sisters sent word to Jesus of Lazarus’ sickness, for example, His comment was that “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (John 11:3). The plan was executed on time, and both favorable and hostile witnesses carried news of the power of the Prophet from Galilee to all audiences.

After recording the events of Lazarus’ resurrection and Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city, the apostle John stopped to summarize and reflect on the effect of those carefully planned circumstances.

The Jews were thus now prepared. The ranking Sadducees and Pharisees were ready to pursue His death. The multitudes were prepared to be aware of His upcoming crucifixion. And the apostles were prepared to be the witnesses for the eternity-shaking events that were about to follow.

 

 

Preparation of the Gentiles

Jesus had no small plan in motion. His vision was never, never limited to the small band of faithful Jews who would truly rely upon the justification of God, but rather encompassed all the peoples of the world. Thus were His words to Abraham two thousand years before He was born of a virgin to enter earth as truly man: “And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). John the Forerunner, in announcing Jesus to his disciples and others present, spoke of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). “I am the light of the world,” He had said (John 8:12). And, lest it be forgotten, He spoke these words: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). He came, indeed, for the salvation of the world.

But the Gentiles had to be prepared. God had brought Israel into existence by miracle, preserved it by miracle, drove idolatry out of it by circumstance, and dispersed it into the world at large so that the scriptures of the prophets were read in synagogues throughout. The Christ of God, then, had it as part of His plan that the first seeds of Gentile curiosity should be sending out their tendrils as He approached His death on darkened Calvary, their intermingling with the Jews causing them to be somewhat aware of the Messianic stirrings amongst those of Israel.

Yes, the hour had come. Jesus was to be glorified in His ascension in about fifty days, and from that position He would be the first to preach light and peace, first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. Christ in the Spirit would be the bread of life to all, and anyone who would come to Him would not hunger, and anyone who believed in Him would never thirst.

 

 

Ultimate Purpose

The Lord left us an example, that we should walk in His steps (I Peter 1:21). He committed no sin, and there was no deceit in His mouth; even while being persecuted He uttered no threats or cursings at His captors. “He bore our sins in His body on the cross,” affirmed the apostle Peter, “that we should die to sin and live to righteousness” (I Peter 1:24).

How was He able to do this? His iron will was derived from His own faith, His firm purpose, and strength from His Spirit in His inner man. It was His firm purpose that put power in His living, as He looked beyond Himself and saw the redemption of all mankind hanging in the balance. “When He was on the cross,” one song says, “we were on His mind.” He had no earthly ambition, and was driven by a plan and purpose far greater than could be carried out in His lifetime on this planet. Having that as His focus, Jesus supremely directed all His mental and physical energies to that object, and no temptation even from Satan personally could swerve His thought processes. “He the great example is, and pattern for me.”

The word of God is replete with different statements of the same principle. “Whoever does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple,” was another saying of the Lord (Luke 14:27). “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren,” added John (I John 3:16). We are to die to ourselves and live for God; we are to die to sin and live for righteousness. We, like our Master, are to seek and to save that which was lost, sowing seed for a harvest of which most will come long after we have ceased on earth. “If it dies, it bears much fruit.”

 

 

Heaven or Earth

Fleshly man wants to “have his cake and eat it too.” He wants to have all sorts of benefits but he doesn’t want to pay for them. He wants blessings but he doesn’t want to sacrifice. He wants glory but he doesn’t want to have the necessary personal discipline. He wants to go to heaven but he doesn’t want to give up earth.

To rescue fleshly man came the Son of God from heaven to earth. Conscious of the wonders of eternity and the temporary nature of this planet’s existence, Jesus set the proper priorities and left the example that all others should follow. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,” inculcated the Son of Man, “it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). The Lord knew that more would be accomplished through His death than in His personal appearance as a man during His life on earth. Consequently, the legacy of His use of time resonates through the lives of His disciples as they learn to set priorities and develop a sense of urgency in reaching the lost.

The system of the world and the system of heaven are locked in mortal combat. The denizen of planet earth must then choose which he will serve and by which he will be honored. Those who can hold eternity in their focus, and who will choose ill-treatment on earth for the sake of the gospel, will be greatly honored at the last day.

 

 

 

Confidence from Heaven

Jesus, in being made flesh, took on all the emotional problems that those who are robed in flesh encounter. Part of His challenge was to face His upcoming death and bearing the sins of the world, knowing full well the enormity of the suffering He was about to undergo. His agitation in the face of those extremities is well understood by mortals who contemplate what it would be like for them to face something similar. Then attention, then, of the followers of Christ is riveted on the record of His emotional spikes and His techniques for overcoming. The Savior of the world was indeed the Son of Man, coming in the likeness of sinful flesh and subjugating Himself to all the vagaries of being housed in a fleshly tabernacle.

The Father’s plan and Jesus’ purpose were being executed. The Father glorified His name in the thunder, and would glorify it again when His Son would speak from heaven through the written word. May the saints of God take great confidence, even with troubled souls, and press on to carry out the mission of the Messiah.

 

 

What Was To Come

When the shadow of the upcoming cross fell on Jesus’ face, He exclaimed, “Now My soul has become troubled.” Reminding Himself of His purpose, the Lord pulled Himself together, and then appealed to the Father to glorify His name. In thunder scarcely heard since Sinai, God noted that He had glorified His name, and would do so again. The multitude, not anticipating any conversation from heaven, simply thought that normal thunder had occurred. Some of the crowd, however, surmised that an angel had spoken to Jesus.

With these thundered words as a backdrop, the Christ once again taught the crowd. In three simple statements, much of God’s total picture was presented to an audience that was basically oblivious to the momentous circumstance which they had just experienced.

Jesus knew the events that were about to take place that were to shake the spiritual realm to the core. While man on earth was a witness to His actual crucifixion and resurrection, the happenings in the arena of the unseen would only be revealed later through those inspired by the Holy Spirit. Satan would be cast out heaven, and the message of the cross would then begin to reach across the whole world. “This voice has not come for My sake,” said the Savior, “but for your sakes.”

 

 

The Pull of Light

The Israelite, from the time of David, anticipated the coming of the Messiah. Looking for an earthly kingdom and peace on earth, the Jew of Jesus’ day expected that the Romans would be run out of Jerusalem and the glories of Solomon’s years would be bestowed on the physical nation. Alas! for such anticipation! “The chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death,” said the two on the Road to Emmaus, woefully expressing their expectations, “and crucified Him. But we were hoping it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:20,21). They did not conceive that their Messiah would have to suffer and die.

Jesus, the light of the world, sent Himself like a beam probing into the darkness. The first contacted by that probe were “those who were near,” the Jewish people, blessed with copies of the Old Testament scrolls. The probing would later extend to all parts of the darkness, “that everyone who believes in Him should not perish,” but have “the light of life.” Even moths have enough sense to come to the light; what about the sons of men?

 

 

 

The People’s Unbelief

The last days of Jesus incarnate on earth were challenging for Him. Constantly in danger from hostile and powerful Jews, He had to show up at the temple, speak to people in accordance with His method of operation, then suddenly duck out and be gone. Only in this way could He ensure that His death would take place at Passover, as had been planned from the beginning.

As some Gentiles were mingling with the crowds coming up to worship at the temple for the feast of Passover, 30 AD, they queried certain of His disciples as to whether they might have an audience with Jesus. The Lord used this opportunity to teach on the importance of serving God, the upcoming judgment on the prince of darkness, and His drawing all men to Himself through the story of His death. “While you have the light, believe in the light,” He stated, “in order that you may become sons of light.” But the time that He could thus expose Himself to arrest was running out, as the apostle John recorded: “These things Jesus spoke, and He departed and hid Himself” (John 12:36).

The crucifixion of Jesus was now just days away. Jesus spoke His final words in the temple, then went to hide Himself. Blind, blind, blind were the sons of the kingdom, and hard, hard, hard were their hearts. Indeed, the time would come when the kingdom would be taken away from them and given to a people who would produce the proper fruit.

 

 

The Glory of the Lord

The Holy Spirit ingeniously hid clues to the opening of understanding of the Old Testament in John’s account. And those clues are needed. The Old Testament’s meaning was not clear to its authors, and therefore its meaning cannot be established from the Old Testament alone. The apostle Peter comments more than others on this point. “As to this salvation,” he says to those who had already come to an understanding of the New Covenant, “the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (I Peter 1:10-12). The only way the Old Testament can be truly understood is to see it through the eyes of the inspired New Testament authors. And John is one of those authors, and his eyes open up big sections of scripture in the Old Testament for understanding.

The Old Testament writings were written for the Christian. While the details of the Law — the sacrifices and ordinances — were to be carried out by the children of Israel as a shadow of the good things to come, the meaning of the Old Testament was never understood by the Old Testament people. These things, from Genesis to Malachi, were written for the instruction of those “upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”

 

 

The Arm of the Lord

“Who has believed our report?” asked the prophet Isaiah. A fair question, especially when asked by a bona fide representative of the Almighty. The apostle John brings the quotation to the fore in commenting that most of the Jewish populace would not believe in Jesus. “He came to His own,” was part of John’s opening salvo, “and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Near the end of the Lord’s earthly sojourn, even after He had raised Lazarus from the dead, the apostle was forced to comment, “But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him” (John 12:37). Later on multitudes, especially from the ranks of the Gentiles, would believe the report.

But what report would they believe? And what would be the arm of the Lord that would be revealed?

The Christian sees the glory of God in the face of Christ, having turned to the Lord in immersion. Blessed indeed are those who have believed the report of “the arm of the Lord,” and have become the children of faith contemplated by the Holy Spirit in recording the events of John chapter twelve!

 

 

Seeking Approval

All men seek someone’s approval. Sometimes the desire is the approval of a girlfriend (or boyfriend) or a spouse; sometimes it is the desire to please a parent. Often a driving force in the lives of people is the craving for acceptance by a peer group or entrance into a certain social circle. “Peer pressure” is so common that the expression stands alone without need for explanation in the English vocabulary.

“Job security” is another driving force in the lives of many. When King Henry VIII of England, for example, withdrew the Catholic Church in England from the oversight of the Pope, seven-eights of the Catholic clergy in England were so “convinced” of the infallibility of the papacy that they promptly became clergy of the Church of England, noting that prospects for continuing job security were greater if they followed Henry’s lead. In the words attributed to King David, “Let their table become a snare and a trap” (Romans 11:9). Most of the time, if a man has to make a choice between “truth” or “table,” he will choose table. Job security is a strong driving force.

When peer pressure and job security mix, the combined pressure is so great that it will break all but the most committed and convicted individuals. As the events in Jesus’ life worked along, such pressures were at work among the leaders of the Jewish people. Comparatively few would withstand such pressures, and declare their allegiance to the Son of God.

The lesson is clear for anyone making a claim to godliness. The faith of each is going to be tested, for faith that is not tested is really not faith at all, and the individual is going to have to stand alone for the testimony of God. When the hearts are thus tested, the question is going to be answered in each life: Do you love the approval of men, or do you love the approval of God? How will your life answer?

 

 

Beholding Jesus

In simple words, the apostle John summarized the whole purpose of the Bible. “No man has seen God at any time,” he asseverated. “The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18). “The testimony of Jesus,” indeed, “is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). The inspiration of God, then, from Genesis to Revelation, is focused on Jesus, and through Jesus the Father is revealed to mankind.

This revelation is not limited to Jesus in the flesh, nor is the revelation complete in exhibiting Jesus in the flesh to the world. Jesus in human form is a necessary link in the whole process, but the process culminates in the revelation of Jesus in glory as the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:3). The prophets in visions saw His glory, and Isaiah, for example, spoke of His glory in terms of the “arm of the Lord” revealed to all mankind. “The Lord has bared His holy arm,” were the words of the vision, “in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10). “Behold,” said the Almighty, “My servant will prosper; He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted” (Isaiah 52:13). As Jesus approached His last hours on earth, He was aware that the revelation of His glory would soon come to the Gentiles, and most of His remarks then looked to that time in His final days.

What a blessing it is to have heard the message of Jesus glorified, and to have been privileged to obey the gospel of glory. The apostle Peter exclaims, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). Let the proclamation increase!

 

 

 

How Jesus Will Judge

To the chagrin of the tribes of earth, there is coming a day of judgment. “A day of reckoning,” Isaiah called it (Isaiah 2:12). “For behold, the day is coming,” affirmed Malachi, “burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze” (Malachi 4:1). Mankind as a whole has refused to have God in its knowledge, preferring instead to live a lie and die the death rather than consciously be accountable to the Maker. Into this mess and confusion stepped the Son of God, bringing truth, clarity, and enlightenment for any who would listen and be willing to surrender to His gracious government. “I have come as light into the world,” He adverted, “that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). The sons of man, then, have the opportunity to come out of the domain of darkness and be transferred into the kingdom of light, that the “day of reckoning” may not be for them a day of terror but a joyous time of reward!

Successfully passing through judgment is not a game of chance. The word of God has been written and distributed in such a way that every truth-seeker on earth will hear and subjugate himself to the terms of pardon. Every rebellious heart resident in the sons of men will continue to reject Jesus’ sayings and suffer the eternal punishment the word of Jesus described.

 

 

Faithful in Utterance

“Consider Jesus,” requested the author of Hebrews, “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the great Missionary or Apostle, sent from heaven to earth to communicate the message of God the Father. As this special Envoy or Ambassador, His role is not to speak for Himself, but to the deliver the official announcement from heaven to the alien and hostile territory called “the world.” Because it is an official pronouncement, and none of the comments are “off the record,” the Lord has no flexibility to improvise; the precise message was all He was allowed to communicate.

The commandment requires as a minimum that each hearer believe the whole message of the story of Christ, that each repent, that each confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, and that each be immersed in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would not dare to alter these; woe to any upstart who would add to or take away from the terms of the commandment of eternal life!